Queensland’s sporting ambitions have taken a considerable step forward in 2019, with the Australian state having strengthened vital connections away from the competition arena whilst pursuing opportunities to host future major events.
The SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit in May shone the global spotlight on the hosting capabilities of the state and the event’s host city, Gold Coast.
More than 1,700 of the world’s most influential sporting executives gathered for the week-long event, with world leaders like International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in attendance alongside representatives from 500 different international businesses, sports federations and rights-holders.
The gathering provided a unique opportunity to welcome the leading decision-makers from the sporting world, just 12 months after the same state and city had hosted the Commonwealth Games to great acclaim.
With the success of the Games, as well as SportAccord, still fresh in the memory, sports industry stakeholders have been given a thorough introduction to a state that is a sporting hotbed and is able to welcome a variety of sporting spectacles.
“Last year’s Commonwealth Games certainly shone the spotlight on the whole of the state and the well-proven capabilities of Queenslanders to stage outstanding sporting and cultural events,” Commonwealth Games Federation president Dame Louise Martin said.
“The Gold Coast, Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns all shared the Games hosting duties and delivered remarkable results.”
Held in April 2018 across the four Queensland cities, the Games provided a thorough test of the state’s facilities, infrastructure and management capabilities,
featuring more than 6,000 athletes and officials from 71 countries.
In the lead-up to the Games, Queensland benefited from AUD$200m of investment in new and redeveloped sport infrastructure that will equip the city to stage national and international events for many years to come.
Meanwhile SportAccord was secured for the Gold Coast through a partnership between Tourism and Events Queensland, Tourism Australia, Gold Coast City Council and Destination Gold Coast.
Reflecting on this year’s gathering, SportAccord managing director Nis Hatt described the event as “the best SportAccord ever”, with delegates from across the world having been left “extremely impressed not only by the facilities on offer in Queensland, but the relaxed lifestyle and the beautiful scenery of the Gold Coast”.
He added: “Many delegates have left the Gold Coast with the strong impression that Queensland is capable of hosting their future events and I’m sure we’ll start seeing the outcomes of the conversations had here in the weeks, months and years to come.”
According to Tourism and Events Queensland’s chief executive, Leanne Coddington, SportAccord has provided an ideal launchpad for the state’s future sporting ambitions in the wake of the Commonwealth Games triumph a year earlier.
“Queensland’s event calendar had another big year in 2019, following the success of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games,” she said.
“In an Australian first, we secured SportAccord for the Gold Coast, an unprecedented opportunity to showcase our world-class event hosting capabilities and were thrilled when the event was widely hailed the ‘best ever’ in its history.
“It was certainly a unique chance to host the world’s top sporting representatives and show them why Queensland is the perfect next event destination. The hard work has begun to convert that interest in Queensland into future events around the state, with a goal of securing AUD$100m in economic return over coming years.”
For the Gold Coast alone, the impact of Games on the local community has been dramatic, aside from establishing a pool of volunteers who have an appetite to support any future events on the calendar.
Since the Games, which attracted direct investment of more than AUD$2bn, significant free-to-air publicity and a wider package of more than AUD$10bn committed to projects before and after the multi-sport showcase, several more event leads have been pursued.
It certainly helps that Queensland’s sporting future is built on solid event foundations that extend well beyond SportAccord and the Commonwealth Games.
The ITU World Triathlon Grand Final, international Twenty20 cricket and the FAI World Parachuting Championships were among the events to land in the city following the multi-sport event, with the 2020 World Bowls Championships and the 2024 ILS Lifesaving World Championships also in the pipeline.
Across the state the sporting menu is varied, ranging from top-tier international cricket, tennis and track cycling in Brisbane to professional golf, surfing, motorsport and marathon events on the Gold Coast.
The Ironman and Great Barrier Reef Masters Games in tropical North Queensland, and yachting’s Hamilton Island Race Week, which attracts entries from all over the world to the Whitsunday Islands, add to the portfolio of sporting attractions that allow the state to show off its natural assets, alongside a host of mass-participation events for runners, triathletes and cyclists.
Endurance events provide a natural fit for Queensland, with the state’s outdoor lifestyle, climate and natural environment enabling win-win scenarios with rights-holders across triathlons, marathons and other road races, cycling events, mountain biking and water-based sports such as surfing, sailing, swimming, life-saving.
An example of the success of this approach can be seen with the Cairns Ironman Asia Pacific Championship, which was rated at No.1 for overall satisfaction in
the 2018 Ironman Athletes Choice Awards.
Situated at the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and within easy reach of the Daintree Rainforest and tropical islands, the event, which boasts a stunning backdrop, has become known as the Ironman in Paradise after well over a decade on the global circuit.
With arguably the most spectacular cycling course in the world, competitors race up the Captain Cook Highway hugging the coastline from Cairns to Port Douglas. From reef to World Heritage-listed rainforest, and a run along the stunning Cairns boardwalk, the race finishes in the heart of the city.
With the next edition taking place in June 2020, the Cairns Ironman Asia Pacific Championship will provide another platform for a sport-obsessed state to promote its appeal to a global audience in an exciting schedule next year.
However, the state is seeking to secure more high-value major events that will drive significant levels of interstate and international visitation and therefore contribute to the Queensland economy.
A perfect example came in May, when the first-ever National Rugby League (NRL) Magic Round took place in Brisbane, attracting a significant number of out-of-state visitors.
The event featured all 16 NRL Premiership teams played in a series of double-headers at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium. It is expected to generate 300,000 tourist bed nights and AUD$60m for the local economy over the three-year deal.
Approximately one-quarter of all ticket-holders came from a different state in Australia, while spectators from 10 countries outside of Australia and New Zealand were in attendance. About 10,000 children were also engaged through 23 school and junior club visits by NRL players surrounding the event.
In total, almost 135,000 people watched the action over four days, with another 3.8 million watching the games on television, underlining the huge interest in the landmark event, with hopes high ahead of the return of the NRL Magic Round to Brisbane next year.
“In an Australian-first, the NRL ‘Magic Round’ was hosted in Brisbane, where all eight games of a round were played in the same place over one weekend.
“We also launched the inaugural innovation and cultural festival ‘Curiocity Brisbane’, the first-ever Outback Queensland Masters Golf tournament, and supported a high-end culinary festival on the Sunshine Coast.
“We also made a number of announcements this year of events that we’ve secured for 2020 and beyond – including Wagner’s epic 16-hour Ring Cycle opera and the 2024 World Lifesaving Championships.”
The trajectory with regard to events in Queensland is more positive than ever. While only five years ago, Queensland’s Events Calendar generated about AUD$300m per year for the state, this year it is expected to have delivered around AUD$800m.
While the extent to which a major event will attract domestic and international visitors is paramount, Queensland is also on the look-out for events that showcase the state’s many and varied experiences to a global audience and engage effectively with the local community to leave behind genuine legacy.
In September, Queensland’s government announced support for Australia’s bid to host the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup, and pledged AUD$11m in funding if it succeeds. The funding offer is conditional on Queensland hosting nine games and the final being played at Suncorp Stadium.
Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop said: “This will secure an outstanding legacy for female sport in Queensland and Australia, powering Football Federation Australia’s drive toward gender equality in football.”
Queensland has made no secret of the fact that events that provide a “synergy” between the sport and the state will be of particular interest.
“The events held across Queensland are as diverse as our world-famous landscapes and that is definitely a competitive advantage that sets us apart,” Coddington added.
“We have a bold and committed approach to growing the value of our It’s Live! in Queensland events calendar over the next five years, and see events as a vital component of our tourism strategy to drive visitation to Queensland. In Brisbane, Gold Coast, Townsville, Cairns, Sunshine Coast and others we have a variety of towns, cities, each of which has something different to offer.”